C-Cube Offers Digital Front-End Support

Hoping to cut into a market controlled by Broadcom Corp., C-Cube Microsystems Inc. has unveiled its "MultiLynx" family of integrated cable front-end chips, claiming they support "all major world cable standards" for set-top boxes and high-speed modems.

C-Cube's MultiLynx chips work in conjunction with the company's recently launched "AViA-9600" silicon, which handles back-end support for digital boxes.

Combining C-Cube's front-end and back-end chips will yield a digital set-top box platform designed to handle more advanced applications such as digital-video recording on different channels and recordable DVDs. Since the technology is based on DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification) 1.1, the chips will also support Voice-over- Internet protocol, as well, C-Cube strategic marketing manager Brian Johnson said.

The company said two MultiLynx models, the "CL2151" and "CL2161," are now available in sample quantities and should reach production volumes during the first-quarter of next year. The CL2161 and CL2151 will be priced at $25 and $30, respectively, in quantities of 100,000.

The CL2161 model handles two-way communications over channels that use North American standards such as DOCSIS and Europe's Euro- DOCSIS and DVB (digital-video broadcasting) standards. It integrates a QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) demodulator with an analog-to-digital converter for the downstream, and a QAM/QPSK (quadrature phase shift key modulator) with a digital-to-analog converter for the return path.

C-Cube's CL2151 chip, meanwhile, is a cable-modem chip designed for set-top boxes. It is similar to the CL2161, but adds a second QAM demodulator for simultaneous digital video and data transfer, the company said.

The company's silicon will initially target the cable market.

"We looked at the cable space and saw there were lots of standards, so we wanted to address all of those in a single component," Johnson said. The chips support set-tops that are deployed in 6-megahertz systems in the U.S. and 8-MHz systems typically found in Europe, he noted.

Johnson declined to say which vendors plan to incorporate C-Cube's front-end cable silicon, a market currently dominated by Broadcom.

"It's a narrow market," Johnson said. "Vendors don't want the Broadcom pipeline to dry up before we can disclose [the vendors]. It's a sensitive issue."

Johnson said C-Cube has already lined up a "major modem supplier" for its new front-end chipset.

C-Cube already counts Sony Corp., Pace Micro Technology plc, Philips Consumer Electronics Co and Motorola Broadband Communications Sector among its manufacturing partners. Service providers in the U.S. and abroad, including BellSouth Corp., Telewest Communications plc, NTL Inc., United Pan- Europe Communications N.V. and SkyPerfectTV, also use its technology.